Memorial to honor Vietnam’s helicopter war gains approval

Memorial will be at Arlington National Cemetery

After three years of requests, the building of a memorial at Arlington National Cemetery to honor Vietnam War helicopter pilots and crew members has finally been approved.

The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association has raised funds through private donations needed to build and maintain the memorial.

Nearly 5,000 helicopter pilots and crew members were killed in Vietnam. Many are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial will help tell the story of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“It’s been 50 years. It’s been a very long struggle and it took a lot of imagination and it took the commitment of a lot of people to bring us to this point,” said Bob Hesselbein, a Vietnam War helicopter pilot and chairman of the legacy committee for the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association.

Initially, the proposal to build the memorial at Arlington National Cemetery was denied. The members of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association did not give up and lobbied Congress.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, authored legislation to place the memorial at Arlington and the bill gained bipartisan support.

In addition to the legislation, letters supporting the memorial started pouring into legislators’ offices.

“We believe that the attention brought to bear to Capitol Hill thousands of letters, not just from Vietnam veterans but also from Gold Star families reaching out to their congressmen and senators truly got the attention of the Army. They realized this is not just a small group of people seeking a memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. These are literally thousands upon thousands of people,” Hesselbein said.

It is hoped work on the memorial can be completed and a dedication can be scheduled for spring of 2018.